AAPI Month Composer Highlight: Naoko Ikeda

Naoko Ikeda lives in Sapporo, Hokkaido in northern Japan, and is passionate about introducing the world to her country’s essence through music. Influenced by classical music, jazz and pop, as well as the piano works of William Gillock, her own music reflects her diverse tastes with beauty, elegance, and humor. Ms. Ikeda holds a piano performance degree from Yamaguchi College of Arts in Japan and currently maintains an energetic schedule as both teacher and composer.

Was there a moment you knew your career path would be a musical one?

Before starting piano lessons at age 6, I took voice lessons! I discovered that even as a child I loved adding lyrics to melodies, and knew that I wanted career in music at age 5. I began more serious music study when I was in junior high.

How has your heritage influenced your music career? What does your heritage mean to you?

I was born and raised in Hokkaido. Japan is an island nation and does not share borders with other countries, so it has its own unique traditions, culture, and aesthetics. The Japanese value the four seasons, and I too feel close to the signs hidden in nature and its changing seasons. Our society places a high importance on our history and our art. In fact, traditions were passed down through the generations by artists and scribes carefully copying works of art into books, paintings, music, textiles, and other mediums. My compositions aim to reflect my culture but I also interpolate those sounds with my own impressions of the world.

Do you have a favorite music piece that you like to perform? Who is your favorite musician?

I love William Gillock’s “Lyric Preludes in Romantic Style.” The collection was what started my interest in piano composition as a teenager. I love performing Debussy and Mozart. It’s tough to pick a favorite musician as it depends on the genre, but I’ve been listening to the vocal group Take 6 ever since their debut, and love their exquisite harmonies!

Music connects us no matter where we are, what language we speak, or our belief system – being comforted by music is a unique sensation that we feel in our hearts. That feeling or sensation is a big step in wanting to understand different cultures and ways of thinking.

How important do you think musical experiences are in bridging cultures?

Because of Covid-19, many musicians around the world shared live performances virtually. We were able to encourage each other through the gift of music. Music connects us no matter where we are, what language we speak, or our belief system – being comforted by music is a unique sensation that we feel in our hearts. That feeling or sensation is a big step in wanting to understand different cultures and ways of thinking.

Naoko Ikeda‘s Recent Publications:

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